Lakes & Dunes
Why don’t more people talk about this part of Michigan? The Chain of Lakes region occupies the NW portion of the state along Lake Michigan. It is absolutely beautiful.
We never expected water so strikingly gorgeous: light turquoise and deep blues; then with the changing light, varying shades of a gem-like peacock-blue.
We came into this region on a scenic drive (M-119) from Cross Village to Harbor Springs, known as the “Tunnel of Trees.” We were not impressed based on the descriptions touting a “one with nature” type of scenery. We expected a bit more remoteness. Instead, it is a pretty drive along the lake, with lots of houses (and lots of for sale signs) scattered along the way. Yes, there are trees, but it just wasn’t all that.
The town of Harbor Springs really looked nice, and we wish we could’ve spent more time there. It was crowded and obviously very popular. Initially I had unsuccessfully tried to find a hotel in the area. We did stop in Petoskey, another well-known Michigan vacation spot and corporate home to Kilwins (ice cream and fudge for the uninitiated). Naturally, we needed a snack and stopped; you cannot believe the huge size of this Kilwins.
Not finding accommodations in Harbor Springs worked out really well. We are staying for a couple of days in a historic B&B (Country Hermitage) on an expansive cherry farm. This is cherry country, and even though the season is pretty much over, we managed to buy some cherries as soon as we hit the area. They are sweet and delicious. The agroeconomy is huge here. Vineyards are now everywhere and the new crop of the moment is hops. As you can guess, there are a lot of micro-breweries.
Wines lean to the Germanic varieties, since its the same latitude as many of the German growing regions. It hard for me to get my head around – but we are actually still north of Toronto.
On Sunday, we explored the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Wow, I had no idea we had landscapes like this, and on a lake. Stopping at the Visitor Center was a smart move because the helpful Park Service Rangers gave us good advice about how to maximize our time in the Park.
The dunes are HUGE, and in contrast with the turquoise water and bright blue sky, absolutely breathtaking. We enjoyed the 7.5 mile Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive and the gorgeous views at the overlooks along the route. Then we climbed part of the 110’ Dune Climb. Forging upwards in the deep sand used muscles long dormant, and I felt the need to move on . . . lunch seemed like an excellent idea.
We had some good local information from other guests at the B&B, and headed up the coast to the town of Leland. Historically known as “Fishtown”, this great little town has well-appointed shops and a number of restaurants. We found a perfect spot (The Cove) right on the Carp River, and enjoyed fresh, smoked white fish.
To round out our day, we checked out Traverse City. Like the other towns in the area, everything seemed so clean and orderly (must be a mid-western thing). Traverse City is the largest city in the area, and has a vibrant downtown with a restored Old Town, Warehouse, and Front Street districts. And, of course, a beautiful lake-front location.
Taking another tip from our new local friends, we visited Elk Rapids for dinner in a local pub/bar. This town is picture-perfect Americana. Pretty main streets, nice homes and lovely waterfront parks.
It’s been great, Michigan.
Sidebar: For $10 anyone over 62 can get a lifetime Senior Pass good at all National Parks and related Park Service locations. The pass gets the holder, and up to three other adults in the vehicle, admission.